DES MOINES, Iowa - President Obama hunkered down in Washington on Monday as Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast, but the posturing from his re-election campaign in battleground states like this one was in full force. The message: "We're winning."
Even as the president and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, scratched one campaign event after the other through Tuesday, Obama's campaign team was intent on putting a political stamp on the final days of the White House contest.
"I don't want to be ambiguous about this at all: We're winning this race," senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters. "I say that not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that's going to come or some hidden vote. We base it on cold, hard data based on who has voted so far and on state-by-state polling."
Whether that rhetoric matches the reality on the ground is open to interpretation.
Republicans counter that Obama is on the defensive in traditionally blue states. They point to the fact that Obama is dispatching former President Clinton to Minnesota this week after polls showed him leading Romney by just 3 percentage points in what should have been secure Democratic turf.
And a pro-Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future, announced Monday it made a $2.1 million ad buy in Pennsylvania, a state long assumed to favor the president.
"They are extremely defensive about Pennsylvania," said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. "Bill Clinton will be headed to at least four states that were not on [the campaign's] map as of April 2012 ... eight days and we'll see who is bluffing."
Some analysts said the crowing from team Obama is meant to rally the president's core supporters at a time when the race is too close to call.
"It's directed at their own people," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution. "It's meant to be a dose of courage. I don't think in any way it reaches out beyond the perimeter of their own campaign."
For days, the two campaigns have been trading jabs over who truly has momentum in the election's homestretch. Obama aides contend that despite Romney's strong position in national polls, he remains behind in the swing states that will ultimately decide the race. Romney aides said the former Massachusetts governor is peaking when it matters most.
Romney received a boost Monday from a new Rasmussen poll that showed him up by 2 percentage points over Obama in Ohio. The Buckeye State is largely considered the most important swing state nationwide -- and polls have consistently given the president an edge there.
In his lone campaign stop on Monday, Romney sought to stoke momentum in the Buckeye State.
"We have a president today who has a different view about where America is. His view is that we are on the right track, that there is no need for major change," Romney said in Avon Lake, Ohio. "My view is that this track is the wrong course for America, that this is a turning point for America."